The cane toad's (Chaunus [Bufo] marinus) increasing ability to invade Australia is revealed by a dynamically updated range model

Mark C. Urban*, Ben L. Phillips, David K. Skelly, Richard Shine

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

194 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Invasive species threaten biological diversity throughout the world. Understanding the dynamics of their spread is critical to mitigating this threat. In Australia, efforts are underway to control the invasive cane toad (Chaunus [Bufo] marinus). Range models based on their native bioclimatic envelope suggest that the cane toad is nearing the end of its invasion phase. However, such models assume a conserved niche between native and invaded regions and the absence of evolution to novel habitats. Here, we develop a dynamically updated statistical model to predict the growing extent of cane toad range based on their current distribution in Australia. Results demonstrate that Australian cane toads may already have the ability to spread across an area that almost doubles their current range and that triples projections based on their native distribution. Most of the expansion in suitable habitat area has occurred in the last decade and in regions characterized by high temperatures. Increasing use of extreme habitats may indicate that novel ecological conditions have facilitated a broader realized niche or that toad populations at the invasion front have evolved greater tolerance to extreme abiotic conditions. Rapid evolution to novel habitats combined with ecological release from native enemies may explain why some species become highly successful global invaders. Predicting species ranges following invasion or climate change may often require dynamically updated range models that incorporate a broader realization of niches in the absence of natural enemies and evolution in response to novel habitats.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1413-1419
Number of pages7
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Volume274
Issue number1616
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2007
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • invasive species
  • niche conservation
  • physiological adaptation
  • range models

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